It’s back to the drawing board for the Cayman Islands government to find ways to redevelop the cruise ship port and Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman.
At a media briefing following Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting, tourism minister Cline Glidden said the new interim five-member government is working closely with the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to ensure that new tendering processes for both projects would meet good practice procurement standards.
“It has been made very clear to us by the UK government that the procurement processes that were being proposed and attempted both for the airport and cruise port did not fall in line with what we refer to as good practice and neither one of those proposals will be supported or allowed to move forward,” Mr. Glidden said.
The expansion and improvement of the international airport in Grand Cayman was “critically important” to address overcrowding issues at the terminal during busy periods, the minister told reporters.
He added that while, for the most part, funds for the project – generated by fees specifically relating to the airport expansion – were in place, the government and the Cayman Islands Airports Authority had to show the UK government that the proper procurement practice would be in place before any work could go ahead.
“We’re happy to say that we have, with the assistance of the economic adviser provided by the United Kingdom … a process that allows us to present a business case and to present the architectural plans that will allow the procurement process to proceed in a manner that will be acceptable by the UK government in terms of good practice,” Mr. Glidden said.
The proposed expansion would not involve the extension of the runway, he said.
During the media briefing, Mr. Glidden also revealed that Cayman Airways wants to buy two aircraft that the airline leases. Those leases cost $6.3 million per year and are due to expire this year and in 2014.
The minister said that the leasing company had provided an “attractive” purchase price and the proposal had been presented to Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor and the British government.
Going back to scratch in terms of tendering for the redevelopment of Owen Roberts International Airport effectively ends an August 2011 agreement between the Cayman Islands Airports Authority and the Canadian Commercial Corporation to partner to redevelop the Owen Roberts International Airport and Cayman Brac’s Charles Kirkconnell International Airport (formerly known as Gerrard-Smith International Airport).
Another deal that has been halted in its tracks due to failure to adhere to proper procurement practices is an agreement between the Cayman Islands government and China Harbour Engineering Company to develop a docking pier and revamp cruise ship berthing facilities in George Town and Spotts.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in November ordered then-Premier McKeeva Bush to drop the China Harbour deal.
Since 2003, the Cayman Islands government has been in talks with a number of different companies regarding the potential construction of a port berthing facility in George Town. Negotiations have been carried out with Misener Marine, Atlantic Star, Dart Enterprises Construction Company, GLF and finally China Harbour, but no final deal has ever been agreed.
As a backbencher, Mr. Glidden had represented the Cayman Islands government in discussions to redevelop the port with some of those companies.
Nigel Hearndon, a financial consultant hired and paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, visited the Cayman Islands for two weeks last month to help design a process for the development of the cruise ship terminal facility that was in line in procurement best practice and to analyse what went wrong with earlier proposals for the cruise ship terminal redevelopment.
Minister Glidden said Mr. Hearndon had prepared an interim report, which he would be willing to release if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office agreed. That report clarified that the UK government would support infrastructure projects in Cayman only if their procurement processes adhered to good practice standards.
The tourism minister, along with Dwayne Seymour, minister of community affairs, gender and housing, plan to meet with the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association on 17 and 18 January “to try to start again a dialogue necessary to ensure we will be able to develop a facility to meet the needs of our cruise partners so they will continue to see Cayman as much sought-after destination”, Mr. Glidden said.
The cruise ship industry has repeatedly called for Cayman to build berthing facilities here. Cruise ship passengers get ashore on board tender boats that carry them from the ship to land. A recent increase in tender fees has further soured relations between Cayman and the cruise ship operators, who see the increase as a blow to their bottom line.
Going back to square one for the airport and port redevelopment is not necessarily an easy process, Mr. Glidden explained, as the projects involve intellectual property – in the form of business plans, environmental impact assessments and architectural drawings that have previously been done by companies that had agreed to carry out the work – that the government may not own.
“The question [is] what components of the necessary procurement process are already in place that we could use and where ownership may lay of those. So, if we’re able to find a business model that is seen as being generic enough that is not favouring or aligning with any proposed or possible tender, then the question would be can we use that?
“If we can use that business model, the question is going to be do we have the architectural and engineering plans that could be used and, for example, do we have ownership of that intellectual property that will allow us to use it again in a comparative tender without being biased towards any entity that may be interested or involved,” he said.
The plans to which Mr. Glidden referred were drawn up as part of design-build projects proposed by previous sole bidders – a process that he said the UK government would not support on future development projects.